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Manchester United vs. Manchester City: The momentum is with United as they look for a first derby win since 2012

08 Apr | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Manchester United vs. Manchester City: The momentum is with United as they look for a first derby win since 2012

The Red Devils haven’t beaten the noisy neighbours since Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season when they went on to win the title

The moment Jason Puncheon curled the ball over the defensive wall, past Joe Hart’s despairing fingertips and into the top corner of the net to make it 2-0, you could hear the knives being sharpened in the Manchester City boardroom.

Manuel Pellegrini’s reign looks to be going much the same way as his predecessor Roberto Mancini: early success with a league title and a cup win, followed by a loss of momentum and a decline in the quality of football and results, leading inevitably to the sack.

But how did it come to this? After the way the season has gone so far, it seems almost unbelievable that Manchester United go into this game above City in the table – and that it is Pellegrini’s job on the line, rather than Louis van Gaal’s.

All season long the narrative has centered on Van Gaal’s struggle to impose his oft-talked about “philosophy” on the misfiring United team, while Pellegrini and City looked the most likely to catch Chelsea at the top of the table.

How quickly things change. From being Chelsea’s closest challengers, City have now slipped to fourth, and barring a late run and a Devon Loch-style collapse from Jose Mourinho’s men, will surely not retain the title they won last year.

Meanwhile, United must now fancy themselves to finish second – a remarkable position given that questions were being asked about Van Gaal’s future just a matter of weeks ago when it was far from certain they would even finish in the top four.

The momentum is all with United, and you sense the spark has gone out of this City team.

Against Crystal Palace on Monday night they began well enough, were well on top in terms of possession and half-chances, yet they never looked all that convincing.

Glenn Murray’s (possibly offside) opener and Puncheon’s free-kick had them beaten. When the fight-back did come, it was too little, too late. Yaya Toure’s goal, 12 minutes from time should have started an Alamo-style bombardment on the Palace defence, but it never really arrived.

That defeat at Selhurst Park made it a scarcely believable four wins in 14 matches for the Champions. For a season when they were supposed to build on last term’s title success and push on into the latter stages of the Champions League, that doesn’t make for pretty reading.

By contrast, United have taken ten victories in their last 14 games as Van Gaal’s tinkering seems to finally be getting through to the players.

But this is the Manchester derby. The cliché tells you that form goes out of the window on derby day, but what about derby day form itself?

Perhaps surprisingly, United are on a terrible run when it comes to facing the noisy neighbours: beaten in each of the last four meetings. In fact you have to go back to 2012 for the last United win, a last-minute 3-2 win at the Etihad.

United went on to win the title that season. And City? They sacked Roberto Mancini after his side finished 11 points off the top. Beware Manuel, beware…